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Happy Birthday Bonnie Raitt!

| November 8, 2014 | 8 Comments

Let’s just put aside for a moment the fact that Bonnie Raitt is one of the most important musicians of this century, showing the world that a woman can wield a guitar while holding her own alongside the legends. And let’s ignore the detail that as a singer, this whiskey-voiced performer nails every note, and will move you wherever she wants you to go—to dance, cry, laugh, or sigh. And while we’re at it, forget that we’re talking about a truly great songwriter—one whose modesty tends to downplay that particular talent. Let’s just take all of those elements, wrap them up in a package, and put a nice bow on it.

Now step back and take a look. You’ll see that what we’re left with overshadows all individual talent and skill, and it’s something that should never, ever be taken for granted. And that is Bonnie Raitt, the woman who has made an immeasurable difference in this world and on the lives of all who are within her far-reaching touch.

To celebrate Bonnie’s birthday today, I thought I’d share what a few songwriters told me when asked how she has impacted their lives. Happy birthday, Bonnie—you are so very loved!

Chris Smither
“Love Me Like A Man”
“I Feel The Same”

It would be difficult to overstate how much Bonnie’s friendship means to me on a personal as well as on a professional level. Professionally she’s opened doors for me that she’s not even aware of, as well as providing royalty checks in the nick of time when things weren’t going as well as they are now. On a more personal level, she never fails to give me all the support she can, and she tells audiences all over the world to check me out. I’ve often thought of her as a walking definition of loyalty in friendship, and when she’s in my audience, I’m playing for her.

Mike Reid
“I Can’t Make You Love Me”
“Too Soon To Tell”

Frank Sinatra once said of Tony Bennett, “He’s the best friend a song ever had.” For my generation, the same can be said of Bonnie.  She has brought more wonderful songs to the attention of the listening public than any contemporary singer one can think of. Fortunately, for Allen Shamblin and me, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” was one of those songs. I remember thinking the moment I heard her recording of it that it seemed she understood that song more clearly than Allen or I. Certainly, Bonnie is a true artist, and as always the great gift of having a true artist record something you’ve written is that often it reveals things in the song that you as the writer hadn’t noticed. I love her for that. I love her for the guts she has shown throughout her career. In a writing life filled with joys, sorrows, frustrations, and certainly insecurity, nothing has filled me with more hope and inspiration than having Bonnie record something I’ve written.

Allen Shamblin
“I Can’t Make You Love Me”

It’s been quite a few years since Bonnie recorded “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” and I’m still trying to process the impact it’s had on my life. Bonnie surrenders and serves a song in a way that validates everyone who’s involved in her artistry. Almost weekly, Mike Reid or I meet someone who expresses how much her version of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” means to them. I was blown away when she recorded it, and I still haven’t recovered. God bless her!

Karla Bonoff

Bonnie was the first person who ever recorded one of my songs. I remember making a demo for her with Andrew Gold and Kenny Edwards in Andrew’s small apartment in the Hollywood Hills, back in 1975 or ’76. We sent it off, and then I heard she was going to record it! And her version, well, it speaks for itself. Such great harmonies with J.D. Souther. I was incredibly fortunate to have someone of her caliber recognize me as a songwriter for the first time.

Richard Thompson
“Dimming Of The Day”

Bonnie is a superlative singer and guitarist, who learned at the feet of the very best. Very few performers are as soulful and musical. She is an excellent interpreter of other people’s material, and it’s a genuine thrill to hear the way she approaches a song. I don’t think there is anyone around who is as generous to other musicians, or who gives so much of her time to helping others through charitable causes. Her work with some of the older blues singers is legendary, and she has often chosen an undervalued artist, like the late Charles Brown, to open shows, increasing their exposure. Bonnie does as good a job as I could ever hope on my song, “Dimming of the Day.” To hear that coming back at you is so moving and rewarding.

John Prine
“Angel From Montgomery”

If anyone ever made a song her own, it’s Bonnie Raitt doing “Angel From Montgomery.” There’s just a little something she brings to it, that’s uniquely her, and you can hear that same thing in the versions of other people who’ve done it. You always know they learned that song from her record and not mine. And whenever Bonnie and I play it together we always do it her way – it’s much easier than doing it my way. I was really glad when Bonnie started writing her own stuff. We used to talk about it years ago, and I knew she’d be as careful in the writing of a song as she’s always been in the finding of a song. No song or songwriter could ever have a greater friend.

Category: In Case You Haven't Heard

Comments (8)

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  1. Dee Mitchell says:

    Happy Birthday Bonnie,
    Been listening to your music since 1970’s and seen everyone of your concerts in Texas since the 70’s to the present day. Keep on rockin your fans are still with you to the future.

  2. Suzanne Devine says:

    Bless Bonnie on her birthday and always. She continues to inspire! In a predominantly male music world back in the 70’s she proved that a woman of substance and integrity to her music could shine – especially with the other “guys” on the guitar!!! Her special talent for not only choosing the best songs but then making them her own is impeccable. And she has also written her own songs with the same passion. Have always loved her style and sound. Your music really has been the soundtrack of my life! …And for NEVER selling out. Not too mention her tireless activism for so many charitable causes. May you stay forever young. Rock on Bonnie, Rock on!!!! ❤ Much obliged, Suzanne Devine

  3. Ruth Greenwood says:

    Happy birthday, Bonnie! In addition to your soulful singing and writing, and your charitable and political work, I admire your intensity as a musician. It took courage to commit to playing guitar with power, grit, and, well, great chops, to performing as a female instrumentalist. Thanks for lighting the way for girls who hope to be performing instrumentalists.

  4. Andy Rogers says:

    “Love Has No Pride” was the one that did it for me. You made it your own. I’m a fan ever since shooting the 1971 Philly Folk Fest. If I could only find those negatives! Best wishes for a happy birthday!

  5. Happy Birthday, Bonnie! From the first time I heard you in 1972, I wanted to play in your band. Alas, ’twas not to be (though I did get to jam with Freebo once), but I still hope. You have a way with a song and a listener’s heart that few singers have; thanks for so many years of consistently wonderful music. Come back and play Toad’s Place in New Haven, CT again someday! Best, Eric Garrison

  6. Soulou says:

    Bonnie-Congratulations on another ride around the sun and many many more for you-you amazing talented woman. An “anti-diva” if there ever was one. Have seen you on a few occasion-5th row center in Peoria last year! I hope you’ll come back this way again sometime. I have a dream that you’ll do a Bonnie Roots tour with tunes from your first few albums and the musicians on them-fun eh? Best wishes

  7. Arny Spielberg says:

    Dear Bonnie,
    With all my heart, I wish you the very happiest of birthdays. Until your next one.
    I’ve been a fan and admirer since I first heard you play in September 1972 at Glassboro State College in New Jersey. (John Prine and Jim Croce shared the bill with you.) It was for me a transformative moment, when a light when on –and it has continued to shine over the miles and years, through your music.
    You have been an enormous influence on my own playing and singing. For me, there is one simple measure of greatness for a vocalist and interpreter of lyrics; that is, “Do you believe them?”
    I believe you, every word, and it has been ever thus since I first heard you, almost 40 years ago.
    Thank you for the joy and blues and light and shadow and spirit and immeasurable pleasure you have brought into my life.
    Best wishes. I love you.
    – Arny Spielberg

  8. Jeannie Flowers says:

    Dear Bonnie,
    Happy Birthday! I wanted to tell you how deeply you have touched me. I’ve been a fan and an admirer of yours since the middle 70’s when a friend took me to Roger William’s Park in Rhode Island to my first grown up concert. It was my 16th birthday. I can’t remember the other musicians that played that day, but I will never forget how inspired and moved your music made me feel. I became a fan of yours that day and I have purchased every peice of music that you have had anything to do with that I could get my hands on ever since then. Some albums I have had to buy several times because I wore the vinal or tapes out.
    Most of my friends, both my parents, my grandmother and my 2 daughters became fans after hearing your music too. My daughters know all the words to all your song but that’s because they have heard it all over and over again and they still love it and never became tired of hearing it. How amazing and wonderful that 4 generations of my family love and can relate to your music.
    For me Bonnie, I can’t imagine going through life without you. Your music has help me celebrate the good times, gotten me through the tough times and helped me to be the person I am today. I not only love your music but I admire you for all your humanitarian and environmental endevores. Without you this world would not be the same. Please don’t ever change.

    With much love, wishing you the Happiest Birthday on the planet,
    Jeannie Flowers

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